To return the ball over the net in a game of tennis, you can use a variety of shots. A volley is one of the most common shots in tennis. But what is a volley in tennis, and what distinguishes it from other sports?
In this article, I’ll explain what a volley is in tennis, where the term originated, how to perform a volley even if you’re a beginner, and why it’s such an important shot in tennis.
What is a volley in tennis, and where did the term originate?
Volleys are aggressive tennis shots in which a player quickly returns the ball over the net before it can bounce. Volleys can be hit anywhere on the court, but they are most commonly done near the net.
When a player wants to get to the net, they usually hit a volley. Simply put, volleys provide the best opportunity for a tennis player to advance to the net and gain an advantage over their opponent.
The volley, along with the overhead smash, is regarded as one of the more aggressive offensive weapons in a player’s arsenal.
The tennis volley is, in my opinion, the best “equalizer” shot in the game. While the server is more likely to use it, a good volley shot can be made by anyone, anywhere on the court, and at any time during the point.
Most importantly, a perfectly executed volley can change the game’s momentum in an instant! But where did the term “volley” originate in tennis?
The term “volley” hints at tennis’ long history as a sport. Tennis originated in France in the 11th century, so it should come as no surprise that the word volley is also French. Volley is a word that means “flight” in French.
This is appropriate because, in tennis, to volley means to hit the ball while it is in flight before it has had a chance to bounce. In tennis, “to volley” means “to hit the ball out of the air on the fly.”
While volleys are an extremely useful shot in a tennis match, they are not always easy to execute correctly and require a lot of technical practice. It’s one of the more technical shots for a beginner to master, in my opinion.
Furthermore, depending on your strengths and position on the court, you can hit a variety of volleys. So, if you want to maximize the benefit of a volley during a match, you should become acquainted with each of them. Continue reading to learn more about each volley type.
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Volleyball comes in five varieties
The type of volley you can hit is determined by the speed, height, and positioning of the ball. Check out the following list for a variety of volleys you can try out on the tennis court:
#1. Volleys on the forehand and backhand
The forehand volley and the backhand volley are the two most common and general types of volleys in tennis. The forehand volley is hit with your dominant hand forward, while the backhand volley is hit with your other hand with the back of your racquet towards the ball.
In general, these two volleys are used to take the pace off the ball and rebound it over the net using your opponent’s power against them.
Volleys on the forehand and backhand are not difficult and only require the elbow technique I’ve already demonstrated. They’re not flashy or fancy. They’re solid shots with little to no dramatic flare.
The backhand volley is a little more difficult to master because most players struggle with the backhand shot in general.
#2. Volley with a swing
A swinging volley deviates from the standard volley technique. When a player performs a swinging volley, he or she uses a full groundstroke swing to smack the incoming ball out of the air.
When caught in no man’s land, players typically perform a swinging volley (the space between the service line and baseline). The swinging volley is reserved for more advanced players because it requires a perfect balance of pace, power, and swing to avoid sailing over the opponent’s baseline.
#3. The volley of slices or cut
The natural progression for the shot as you improve at volleys is to add some spin to them. Backspin with a downward cutting motion is the most common spin on a volley. Consider it as if you were cutting through the ball.
Regardless of forehand or backhand court position, you can slice or cut at the ball ever so slightly. Cut volleys work best in the middle of the court, where you have time to run up to the ball and prepare your cutting motion.
The motion is the same whether you call it a “slice” or a “cut.” You’re slicing fruit from top to bottom as you come down on the ball. Keep proper arm and elbow technique in mind. Don’t raise your racquet too high and then crash down on it.
Instead, keep that elbow in and incorporate a slight cutting motion coming down on the ball as you make contact with it. It doesn’t take much to put a spin on the ball with today’s racquets and string technology.
When your opponent is back at the baseline, you can put a backspin on the ball, causing your volley to drop and then come back at you…using their own court position against them.
They won’t have time to get to the ball, and it will bounce and roll away from them. If your opponent can get to it, this type of volley will sometimes set you up for another volley.
#4. Topspin volleyball
The topspin volley is the inverse of the cut volley. You’re sliding up on the ball instead of cutting down.
Take care not to add too much swing or spin action to this type of volley. You might want to follow your instincts and make this a mini topspin shot that feels like a traditional groundstroke topspin shot from the baseline.
Do not attempt it. Instead, keep your elbow in as you normally would, raise your racquet as your strings make contact with the ball, and allow for a subtle follow-through.
This type of volley is ideal for quick players because, if executed correctly, the shot picks up speed after the bounce and becomes more difficult for fast players to reach. This is an excellent volley for accelerating the ball.
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Specialty volley shots in specific situations
#1. Drop volley
Drop Volley is also referred to as the drop-shot volley. A drop volley is a very soft shot in which the ball lands just past the net on the opposing team’s side. If you use this shot at the right time, your opponent will not have time to reach the ball, and it will bounce several times, giving you the point.
#2. Block volleyball
A block volley occurs when you “block” the ball with your racket, similar to a wall, with little to no movement. Block volleys are typically used when you’re playing closer to the net and need to return the ball quickly.
They’re the best volley to use when a ball is thrown at you because you won’t have to generate any power of your own. You’ll use the power of the shot aimed at you to quickly rebound the ball to an area of the court where your opponent can’t get to it.
#3. Lob volleyball
A lob volley is a good shot to use when you and your opponent are both close to the net. Turn your racket to the sky and hit upward so the ball arcs over the net and over your opponent to hit a lob volley. A lob volley can only be successful if your opponent is close to the net.
Ball placement is critical for this type of volley and may require practice. Consider it a drop shot, but one that floats over your opponent’s head back towards the baseline.
#4. Half volley
A half volley is one of the more difficult shots to execute because the timing must be perfect. A half volley is hit right after the ball bounces but before it reaches the peak of the bounce. The half-volley shot is executed with precision and appropriate positioning.
Players may accidentally hit the ball into the net or scrape the ground with their racket if the shot is not hit correctly.
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In tennis, what is the difference between a volley and a half volley?
In tennis, the difference between a volley and a half volley is simply a bounce. A half volley is a shot that is struck immediately after a very short bounce, as opposed to a volley, which does not allow the ball to bounce and is hit out of the air on the fly.
A half volley is technically not a volley because it allows the ball to take a short bounce (very short). However, because the ball is not allowed to rise much and is struck only seconds after bouncing, the term “half volley” was coined.
Consider tennis’ “bang bang” play, in which a player runs up to a drop shot that has been hit at them but is too late to hit a volley out of the air, so the player uses his or her momentum perfectly to strike the ball immediately after it has bounced.
This immediate strike produces a shot that looks like a traditional volley but has little to no swing involved. As a result, the shot looks suspiciously like a regular volley.
What is the importance of volley in tennis?
Volleys were an important part of tennis strategy in the 1980s and 1990s due to the popular “serve and volley” concept that originated in the 1940s. However, as racquets became lighter and string technology became far more powerful in the early 2000s, the game became dominated by “baseline” players.
Because of the rapid advancement of racquet technology, the game began to favor those who could generate massive power and spin from the baseline. This reduced the emphasis on volleys and increased the emphasis on ground strokes that could practically peel the tape off the court.
Volleying in tennis has almost become a lost art. And, while the volley was not widely used in the 2000s, it has never lost its potency.
These types of things, like all sports trends, are cyclical. Winning at the net and, as a result, volley shots are making a comeback!
Volleys are essentially an “attackers” shot that allows the server to go on the offensive while forcing their opponent to react quickly. The less time it takes your opponent to analyze a shot, the better. Even in today’s game, volley shots are extremely effective because of this.
Volleys are also useful if you’re playing on an uneven or old surface. The ball may bounce irregularly on these courts, throwing off your groundstroke return. You don’t have to worry about a bad bounce ruining your shot if you can eliminate the bouncing aspect by hitting a volley.
A well-timed volley, when executed perfectly, provides you with put-away angles that are nearly impossible for your opponent to predict and return with any chance of an attacking shot of their own.
In short, while volleys fell out of favor due to advanced racquet technology favoring powerful groundstrokes, players are now re-appreciating the cerebral art of a perfect volley, which can still fit nicely into anyone’s game. Including a professional.
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Volley in 3 easy steps
A volley requires the player to keep their racket up and block the ball in front of their body as quickly as possible, with no time for wind-up or backswing. Coming up to the net, on the other hand, exposes the net player to passing shots or deep lobs, the latter of which can negate their advantage by forcing them to return to the baseline in order to reclaim control of the point. Volleys necessitate precise timing because you are much closer to the net. Check out this step-by-step tutorial on how to perform a good volley:
#1. Step 1
Get a good grip. Volleying works best with a Continental grip because it allows you to hit forehand and backhand volleys without changing your hand position. When you’re at the net, every second counts, and having to reposition your hand can mean the difference between hitting a winner or sinking the tennis ball into the net.
#2. Step 2
Take the proper stance. When approaching the net, you must allow enough time to split steps. A split step is a simple jump in the air with your legs out, landing on a balanced point. A split-step helps you regain your balance after a lot of movement, and it also secures your stance and positions you to hit a volley.
#3. Step 3
Find the proper motion. A standard volley requires a slightly open racquet face and a downward cut in the volley motion, which results in a backspin and a low bounce in your opponent’s court. Keep your head down and your eye on the ball as you move your hand in the direction you want the ball to go.
Tennis tips for improved volleys
If you want to improve the effectiveness and accuracy of your volleys in tennis, concentrate on two key areas: your footwork and your grip.
Here are some pointers to help you improve your volley:
When hitting a volley, keep your body moving forward towards the net, not sideways or backward. When hitting a volley, you want to have a lot of power behind it so that the shot is strong. This is accomplished by constantly moving towards the net and stepping to the shot. This is essential for the majority of volleys.
Make sure your feet are in the proper volley position. They should be set at a 45-degree angle to the net. Your non-dominant foot should be forward for a forehand volley, and your dominant foot should be forward for a backhand volley.
When hitting a volley, the grip is crucial. To volley, most players use a continental grip, which is a grip in which you hold the edge of the racket parallel to your arm. The eastern forehand grip, in which your hand is parallel to the face of the racket, is another option. This grip isn’t as popular, but it’s adequate for volleys.
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In conclusion, this post has provided an answer to the question “What is volley in tennis?”
Volleying is an important skill for any tennis player to have. You can hit two basic types of volleys: forehand and backhand, and once you’ve mastered those, you can learn the many different types of specialty volleys.
When hitting a volley, move forward, hold the racket properly, and have your feet in the proper position. Give these tips a shot the next time you play tennis, and you’ll be hitting more accurate volleys in no time.